As I sat down to write this article, a commercial for an upcoming movie appeared on the television. Here was my thought process throughout the minute-long trailer. One: I recognize that voice. That’s Ben Stiller, who is adequate in comedies but better in movies that are slightly off mainstream. Two: The music in the background sounds nice. Three: The premise of this movie sounds interesting. I might be able to relate to it, or at least find the story interesting. Four: I think I’ll go see this movie. It might be the first decent movie I’ll see this year.
I consider myself a picky consumer, so I don’t pay too much attention to advertising — at least consciously. If I see this film, however, the marketing will have worked on me. I am likely in the target market for this movie.
Advertising can have effects worse than spending $10.50 on a movie in a theater. The Federal Trade Commission and the Bureau of Consumer Protection have come together to create a resource for parents to share with their children to help explain how advertising works to influence your decisions at Admongo. The site sets out with the goal to answer these questions: “Who makes ads? How do they work? What do they want you to do?”
Avoidance of advertising is practically impossible; education should focus on safe consumerism rather than abstinence from retail. As consumers grow more immune to traditional advertising, marketers will find more ways to infiltrate the minds of the public.
There are two keys to teaching children about how to think critically when faced with advertising.
When you encounter advertising, particularly if it’s somewhat disguised, discuss what the message is trying to convince you. When a company claims its product beats a competing brand, what does that mean? Are there any other questions you need to ask yourself? What is the marketing message not saying about the product?
As with anything you do as a parent, your actions will act as models. If you put a value on being an informed consumer through your interactions with this material world, there’s a good chance your children, with repeated encouragement and direction. will eventually see the value as well.
Just for fun, take a look at just a portion of all the advertising you are subjected to when attending a baseball game.
Updated June 24, 2016 and originally published April 27, 2010.